Adding to the malpractice delays was the fact that a claim wasn't usually filed until 28 months after the incident in question. And the case wasn't resolved until 43 months after the incidents, often leaving a nagging shadow of the case over doctors and patients alike.
"Claims involving high-risk specialties can take an extremely long time to resolve, and some don't even result in actual compensation for the patient," Seabury says.
The report shows that pediatrics and obstetrics cases took the longest to resolve. Birth-related neurological damage cases often take a lengthy period of time to finalize. Neurosurgeons generally spend the most time with open malpractice claims, 27% of a 40-year career, the report shows. Yet, more than 102 months—or 21.13% of careers—were spent with an open claim in which no payment was made.
For physicians generally, claims that did not result in payments amounted to 7% of a four-decade career.
While RAND focused much on the four-decade career, there was some good news. The claims were resolved more quickly for younger physicians, but it was still a time-consuming process. The time to resolve a case was an average 16 months for doctors 30 to 39 years old, compared to more than 20 months for physicians 40 to 49; and 21 months for physicians 50 or older.
Probably to no one's surprise, the report found that malpractice claims involving death or permanent disability took the longest to resolve, about 18 months.